pair of compasses

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pair of compasses

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(ˈkʌm pəs)

1. an instrument for determining directions, as by means of a freely rotating magnetized needle that indicates magnetic north.
2. Often, compasses. an instrument for drawing or describing circles, measuring distances, etc., consisting generally of two hinged, movable legs (often used with pair of).
3. the enclosing line or limits of any area; perimeter.
4. space within limits; scope: the broad compass of the novel.
5. the total range of tones of a voice or of a musical instrument.
6. due or proper limits; moderate bounds: to act within the compass of propriety.
7. a passing round; circuit: the compass of a year.
8. curved; forming a curve or arc: a compass roof.
9. to go or move around; make the circuit of: to compass the city on foot.
10. to extend or stretch around; surround; encircle: A stone wall compasses the property.
11. to attain or achieve; accomplish; obtain.
12. to contrive; plot; scheme.
13. to make curved or circular.
14. to comprehend; grasp, as with the mind.
[1250–1300; (v.) Middle English < Old French compasser to measure < Vulgar Latin *compāssāre, v. derivative of *compāssus equal step (Latin com- com- + pāssus pace1); (n.) Middle English < Old French, derivative of compasser]
com′pass•a•ble, adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
If on Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses and drawn a circle with a radius of five miles round the Woking sand pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it, unless it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four cyclists or London people lying dead on the common, whose emotions or habits were at all affected by the new-comers.
After that they took his right hand, placed it on something, and told him to hold a pair of compasses to his left breast with the other hand and to repeat after someone who read aloud an oath of fidelity to the laws of the Order.
The boy was there, sitting upon the office stool hard at work with a pair of compasses.
Under that, the miscellany began--a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells.
"I knows him!" And, after a few convulsive efforts, the red legs tok the shape of a pair of compasses, and the intelligent pupil triumphantly shouted, "It's a We, Dranpa, it's a We!"
Barbicane did not answer, but after a rapid glance at the captain, took a pair of compasses wherewith to measure the angular distance of the terrestrial globe; then from the lower window he took an exact observation, and noticed that the projectile was apparently stationary.
'It looks a nice warm exercise that, doesn't it?' he inquired of Wardle, when that gentleman was thoroughly out of breath, by reason of the indefatigable manner in which he had converted his legs into a pair of compasses, and drawn complicated problems on the ice.